Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy 12-12-12

Just thought I'd pop on here and say Happy 12-12-12!!! And with luck I can type fast enough to get this posted in one minute at 12:00!!!
Update: dang it! It seems that blogger is one minute slower than my computer :( oh well....

Saturday, November 10, 2012

These are my confessions.....


So I'm just going to dive right in....
Ok, here it goes.... (deep breaths)
Bless me Internet for I have sinned.....I've started reading Romance Novels!!!!!!!
There, I said it!
Stop looking at me like that!!!
I am 32 years old!
I am an adult.... And it just sort of happened.... shut up!

Anyway, here's how it all started.....
I was in a used book store. I was mostly just wasting time while my daughter was in pre-school. But I was also looking around for something to jump out at me. Some little diamond in the rough that might appeal to me at the moment. That is when I came across the author Katie MacAlister. She seemed to have an eclectic sort of titles to her books from "The Corset Diaries"  to "A girls guide to Vampires" the first in the "Dark Ones" series.
I eventually went back and bought "The Corset Diaries" (because I feel it's important to support local businesses) but at that time I left the store with something else but I had read the back covers they seemed pretty interesting. Not to mention, I love vampire stories. They have always been my monster of choice. So I went to the library and checked out the first of the "Dark Ones" series. I justified it mostly because it sounded interesting and the cover, for a romance novel, was quite innocuous. It looked more like a YA cover. Although by the end of the series they do tend to get more...um...shirtless.

Now, I am not completely new to the romance genre. I have friends who have suggested a few of their favorite novels. And I've read one or two with the unintentional side effect of  finding humor at the serious concepts and outrageously cheesy dialog... in the end they seemed a bit, well, stupid.....When asked my opinion I would joke with them by giving a quick summary of the story..."I love you! I hate you! I love you!I hate you! Oh! I hate you so much for making me love you!!!!! "......but with this author I found something different. Intentional humor. Yes there are some serious points and even parts that are quiet emotional, and other parts that can be almost annoying but I found myself giggling and often outright rolling with laughter (with tears) ....not because the stories/characters are cheesy and predictable but because these real enough characters are put in these unreal situations and they are actually meant to be laughed at from an outside perspective. And yes like in any work of fiction/science fiction, one must suspend reality but... I just love her sense of humor!

Now, here's where more of the confessing comes in....I like it so much that, in the last 5 weeks, between her independent novels, short stories and the Dark Ones series. All together, I've read about 12 of her books..... (and no worries, my kids were still well fed...I think) Granted, three of those books were read as part of a challenge. I bet a high school student that I could finish three of my (over 350 page) books before she could finish her one, already halfway read (350 page) book by the end of the week....needless to say. I won. In fact it's been almost two weeks and she's still not finished....

Anyway, back to the point. The confessing...now while these books do not contain nearly as much foul language as even some YA books, they are essentially meant for adults and therefore do have "adult situations" aka there is sex. But considering that I've been married for over 11 years....and once again for the sake of  my mother, who I'm sure is reading this..I am an Adult, so it's not like there isn't anything I haven't heard of before...well, except maybe that one thing...but in that case, that's when you make the best of an awkward situation and start taking notes....  ;D

I do have to add that after reading so many of her books I have noticed that she has a bit of a pattern. To be fair though, to be that prolific of a writer (over 11 different styles from contemporary, paranormal to the Historical and even a Dragon series) one can't blame her. But with that said, she also manages to come up with enough diverse characters and situations that, even though the formula might be the same. The spin and the interconnecting of stories is enough to keep you going. Granted this opinion is coming from someone who has read all of the original Hardy Boy books... man,Franklin W. Dixon, now there was a writer with a set pattern/outline. But hey, it works because as you can see those were and still are quite popular books no matter what age group. So I know I'm not alone in my quirkiness for some sort of loose order. (and yes, I just did mention the Hardy Boys in a post about romance novels)

Alright, I guess that's it. (sigh of relief) My secret is out....I feel so much better now....

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why YA according to Susan and other bright ideas

So yesterday, just about 20 minutes before heading out the door to go to church I decided to check my email. Why? You may ask. Well, I'll tell you . Because I can't seem to go a whole day with out knowing I didn't miss my opportunity to save the world via my computer. It was then I saw the email from my friend Scott Cramer author of Night of the Purple Moon. If you don't remember I reviewed it a few months ago. (yes, we are friends now. If we ever meet in person I'm sure there will be toenail painting and we'll braid each others hair.) He pointed out that despite his book being in the Young Adult genre the majority of his reviewers/readers were not teens but youngish mothers. So since he was pretty certain I fell into that category, he asked me to maybe lend my ideas on how he might go about appealing to that unexpected audience of his.
So me being the person I am.....Never missing an opportunity to help out...I thought,  "Uhg! I have to go! I'll think about it and write back later"....5 minutes later I realized if I didn't write something I'd forget what I was thinking about and then feel bad that I didn't write it down. So this is part of what I came up with 10 minutes before running out the door. (then I came home, made dinner and then finished it)
I"m not a marketing genius but I do know a little something about why I and some of my other mommy friends read YA. And as G.I Joe says. "knowing is half the battle"...so here's what I know...


The Why according to Susan 
As mothers we cherish the quiet time no matter how brief and with it comes the story/escapism. Books provide that. Unlike TV were you feel you have to watch all the way through in one sitting. One can stop and start and even reread if you missed something or even loved something. (sans TiVo that is) That way if our kids need us we can immediately stop and then just pick up where we left off...We are drawn to YA because in some ways it's "safe". It's easy to read. Not that many big words our post baby brain can't figure out even with context. Speaking of words, it usually doesn't have as many bad words either,so we don't have to work to edit the way we talk (let's face it, if one is constantly bombarded with F bombs all day it's hard not to use them when you get mad at the kids) It doesn't make us feel under qualified as women like some Adult books do with characters that have relativity exciting lives and achievements that we currently do  not(and at times feel we never may) have. YA lets us go back to a time when we didn't have responsibilities and pretend that this "could" be us...does that make sense? Also reading YA helps us to stay connected to the younger generation. And not to mention the fact that (at least me personally) most mothers would rather not have their children see them reading books with half naked people on the cover.("What are they doing on that book mommy?" "He looks cold") Also we want books that we can share with our children. I know I can't wait until my kids get older and I can hand them a book and say..."You will LOVE this!" (while secretly knowing that I've already read and approved it, I'm sneaky that way)
Another reason it's read by mothers is that we talk! (and thus the book club was created) Dystopian stories are in right now. And YA stories are usually not nearly as complicated to retell. 
(I had to stop writing this and go away for a while. During that time I had a whole lot more to add but now I can't think of what it all was)

Also, you had a good start with changing the cover. Those who say they don't judge a book by it's cover...Lies! We all do it. 

And scene....

I talked with my husband and then I wrote a bit more about why boys read (if and when they do) and then prattled on about a few other ideas that popped into my head. But that pretty much summed up the meat of my response.

So, what do YOU think? Why do you read the books you do? What would make them more appealing? Do you have any feed back or ideas to help out Scott? What was it about the books you loved that made you want to pick them up and read them in the first place? Was it the cover? The title? The description on the back? All that and more? Or was it more just word of mouth from a friend? Feel free to leave a comment on Facebook or in the comments below...who knows maybe one of my friends is a marketing genius!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mommy and Me day at Razzle Dazzle

So this week is the annual Salmon River family camp out up in Riggins ID. It's a full week of white water rafting, playing on the sandy river banks and eating really good food. Anyone and everyone is invited and it's usually a time of memory making and fun for all....with that said though, for many reasons I decided I wasn't going to go this year.(besides, someone had to stay home and watch the dog) But I knew my kids and husband really really wanted to go so I made a deal with Ryan. You take the boy and I will take the girl and you can tell me alll about it when you get back. And that way I don't have to have a panic attack from just the treacherous drive up there. (don't get me wrong, I love camping, I just have my reasons for not wanting to go)

So, while the men folk are up in the mountains having fun and doing manly things. I decided that my daughter and I were going to have some girly fun down here. And since she is only 3 I realized that staying in alll day and reading a book just wasn't going to cut it. That's when I had the idea to have a little bit of a "Salon" day. I asked around and looked up a few placed and after comparing cost and distance I settled on going to Razzle Dazzle College of Hair Design in Nampa ID.
It was a very good choice. The staff and the Stylists/students (Jacynda and Vanessa) were very professional and friendly. They treated Willow like a Princess.


 And she just LOVED it! I could hear her telling Jacynda all sorts of things about her brother and her baby dolls...and...and...and.
I ended up getting a pedicure and she just got a polish change, but it was the best polish change she's ever had.
Sorry, I know my feet aren't nearly as cute as Willow's but.....They're so sparkly I'm gonna Die!!!

 But the best part was that while Willow waited for me to finish up with my pedi the manager filled up one of the stations next to me with realllly soapy water and let Willow soak her feet and play in the bubbles.



 She (the manager) made sure to let me know that "This won't happen every time." But that's alright. The fact that they took the time to do it this time was very appreciated.
All in all it only cost about $21 for the both of us.(That's before tips, that were greatly deserved. And it should be noted that even after tips it was still cheaper than if I only had a pedicure for myself at another Salon) So in the end I think I will be going back to Razzle Dazzle in the future. :) Who knows...as Willow gets older maybe this will become an annual tradition.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins *Updated*




What it's about
Once Anna's parents left her alone in her dorm room she realized that this was final. She was stuck in a foreign country with no friends or family. Nothing familiar...not even the language. And to make matters worse, she was the new kid.
For most teenagers it would be a dream come true to move away from home to live independently from their parents. A fresh start away from all of life's current troubles...but not for Anna. 
She was looking forward to her last year of high school with her friends and then going to college to study film. So when her parents made the announcement that she was going to be sent away to France to finish her last year of High School at the exclusive School of America Paris, with out even giving her a choice. She was devastated. 
She was happy with her life.She lived with her mom and little brother. She had a best friend and a potentially new boyfriend named Toph that she's secretly liked for as long as she can remember. Her last night before leaving home he even kissed her, confirming that he liked her back.What was she going to do? How is she going to survive the whole school year alone?
She is in utter despair until she meets a group of friends including Étienne St. Clair... the most beautiful boy she's ever seen ...and the best friend a girl could ask for. He helps her order her food. He's takes her out exploring and best of all he takes her to the movies...the only down side is he has a girl friend. So he is completely off limits in the romantic department, and it's clear he only wants to be friends. Which is ok, because she has Toph, right? Who knows, with her new friends maybe this year won't be quite as horrible as she imagined.

And Scene

(Side Note:  Last November I reviewed the book "Lola and the boy next door" I really enjoyed that book but thought it was a stand alone novel. I was wrong...if I had known that it was the second out of two books, Anna and the French Kiss (AFK) coming first, I would have read it in order...Now, after reading AFK, I need to go back and reread Lola...and pay a lot  more attention to the secondary characters!)

This is the type of book that contains what I like to call a Seed story. It starts out small and plain, nothing really special. But once you finish it's grown so much that it's ingrained in your head and it is the only thing you can think about allll day. You can't help but go over your favorite bits over and over again. It's so encompassing you get into snippy arguments with you husband due to lack of sleep........ all because of this book....man I like this book!

Since the beginning of May I've read about 16 books (11 from a specific series) but even though I really got into them, I never really wanted to purchase the books. *UPDATE(ok not really true.I think I was talking about just from the series because I actually do own 4 out of those 16)END UPDATE* (once I finish the next book in the series,I  might review it too...there's plenty to rant about, so don't get me started)  But out of all those other books AFK is the only one I've seriously considered buying. Which is odd but true. It's a book I want on my shelf so that I can pick it up when ever I want to shut out the screaming kids and just reminisce.
I really can't say what exactly made me like this one over the others. Maybe because unlike the majority of the other stories I read, that are based more on the supernatural, these events are possible. This could be someones true story...and if I had to think of one word that comes to mind when I think of the story it would be "Sweet." This is just a Sweet story. I know that sounds really girly of me but hey, New's flash, I'm a girl....And even though I wouldn't have minded an extra chapter at the end.... (there is an extra scene on Stephanie Perkins blog ,which is nice)....When I finished reading it I was all warm and tingly. It just made me feel good. And that my friends is a sign of a good book!

Side Note 2: If your are anything like my Mom, don't get thrown off by the title....She called me the other day and I told her what I was reading. I think all she heard was the words " French Kiss" because I could hear shock and horror that I might be reading smut. "WHAATT?!!! What's it called again?!" Then she kept making me repeat the title in the hopes that she heard wrong....

  1. 1st. Breath easy mother...it's called "Anna and the French Kiss" not "Anna and the Orgy of French Kisses"
  2. 2nd Like I would admit to you that I was really reading smut.... But I wasn't so please refer to #1. 

With all that said though, I personally would only really recommend this book for teens around age 16ish. There are some bad words here and there and a few more grown up themes discussed, pretty much like in any study hall in High school ...Middle school or younger...eh,not so much. But, hey if you'er not in that last category....I say go read it and share the warm and tingly feelings!!!! :D


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What I did on my Summer Vacation....

Oh wow, fancy meeting you here.....how have you been? Really that's great. Oh what have I been doing? Well, I kinda took a bit of a break. I went home to visit my family in Pennsylvania for about a month and then just kind of slacked for the last couple weeks.
What? You really want me to tell you about my trip? No, you don't want to hear all about it.
Really? *sigh* WELL Ok, if you insist!

( I feel like I should put on khaki shorts and a polo shirt. Maybe dig out my old Hershey Park name tag and get one of those little portable mics. Oh and don't forget the sunglasses, because otherwise tourist can tell when you roll your eyes at there stupid questions...they don't like that.)
Shall we begin our tour?
(Just think, if this was 1972 I'd be setting up a slide projector...just saying)

Let's start with the "the Road Trip"
 Because Ryan's arms are longer we have a sort of understanding that I drive most of the way and he beats...*cough cough*umm I mean handles the kids. Also despite having a perfectly decent sized kennel, George insisted on staying up front....where it was safer...

 Only home a few days and Willow is not happy...this is her "I can't believe you put me in time out!" face. Especially on Memorial Day while at the coolest park ever!! It had a "desert"(sand box) and everything.
And of course the first thing you do when coming home is go to Chocolate world "The Sweetest Place on Earth". Ride the free ride and get some free chocolate!

 Hello ladies...Every few years they add some sort of "improvement" to the tour ride...the singing cows are one of the latest....
 But what has never changed (and better not ever) although I swear they turned down the heat is the ROASTER!!! AAAHHHHHHH
 And speaking of roasting...what better way to end our evenings than with a fun camp fire in the yard..mmmmm.......

"If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine"
 I love my parents back yard...3 acres of Green awesomeness.... I really like this picture...See Mom! You can cut them down but they will come back!!


 

 Me posing in the "back forty" in front of my favorite Mulberry tree.... And speaking of Mulberries!!!!


THIS is what a real Mulberry looks like!!!! MMMMM  YUMMY!!!And this is why I LOVE coming home in June. Last September I found a mulberry tree in Idaho and I almost bought the land it was on just to get the tree....

These are my sister's hands...she didn't understand why I wanted to take of picture of them...so she could make a camio in my blog, of course!
An this is what your fingers are supposed to look like after just a few minutes of picking/eating them....


Now, up next on our tour is a little town just east of my home called Annville.


 Every year they have an annual street fair they so aptly call. "Annville Days"...some years are better than others. But this year was pretty good....
It's not a deep fried Snickers, but hey deep fried Oreo's will do.

Making cards to send to the Troops

playing the drums for music therapy
And the BEST part of Annville Days....The Bag Pipes!! I'm serious, it's my favorite part.
 And now moving on....
Since moving to Idaho I've had to make do with not having certain things that I can only seem to get in PA.(And if I do find them here, they are not very authentic) And here are a few of those things.
Four Leaf Clovers...
Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake WITH the thin layer of icing on the top of the Vanilla
Real "OH MY GOSH" soft pretzels. Yes, it's over a foot wide and it only cost $4.

Decent tasting Whoopy Pies mmmmm
 The last two picture were taken after of my trips to an awesome farmers market called "Roots" (pronounced  "Ruts") located in Lancaster, PA. Going there is mandatory. The food alone is worth the trip and you can get the best deals on fruits and veggies. If you go there, take my mother. If she can't find you the best deal, than no one can. Not to mention that you if don't go home with a car full of flowers, enough fruits and veggies to can in mass quantities and a full belly, then you obviously did something wrong! Ok, moving on.


Our next stop was about 2 hours east, just outside of Allentown in Easton, PA.

The Crayola Factory!!! (aka the Crayon Chocolate factory)
The town square Easton, PA

Does this really need a caption?
 There are just rooms and rooms of FUN. It was totally worth the $12.50 for admission...And to think my mom tried to talk me out of going.....
The kids (and Ryan) had a blast!

Really mommy, I can just  cut and glue what ever I want?!
Yes, child...go to town.

 One of the last stops on the East Coast was a quick one day trip to Rahobeth Beach, DE. For some reason I always thought it was in Maryland, but no, I was wrong....Either way, it hasn't changed in decades! This was only the kids second time to the beach (that they can remember) so it took a while, but they started to realize the full potential of alll that sand!
MMMUUUAAAAHHH HAHAHAA



It helped that Happy (Pappy) was there to show them the ropes

 All in all, it was a very fun trip. I had not been home in over two years so I wanted to make sure I got in all the fun things I remember from my childhood. So just to make sure I solidified those memories I made sure to make one more stop at the most important place.....again!


It's only 5lbs...but still it's the best thing in the whole shop!!
 And thus ends our tour....I hope you all enjoyed this little trip to the East Coast...



In some ways the trip ended too soon. But I was happy that I was given the opportunity to visit with all of my friends and family....
Driving home into the sunset through Wyoming....I'm sure it would have looked better without the smoke from the CO fires...not to mention a clean windshield.



MUSH GEORGE, MUSH!!! at a very windy "Little America" in Wyoming..


And now I will leave you with a small sampling of what I was treated to (subjected to)  during our down time at the house...Did I forget to mention that my sister was visiting there with her 4 kids too? Combined with my two...it made for some interesting times.




video

Monday, May 21, 2012

Interview with author Scott Cramer "Night of the Purple Moon"

So as I promised in my last post,( where I'm hosting a give away )here is an interview I did with the author of "Night of the Purple Moon", Scott Cramer.
I just wanted to add that while I felt my questioners were kind of lame/generic, I loved his answers....And I wanted to thank him for his willingness to work with me.



 Due to the nature of the main characters in the book I have to ask first.....Do you have any children?
Yes, I have two daughters. One just graduated from college and the other one is about to attend college. Day in and day out, I am amazed by their intelligence, grace, toughness, balance, senses of humor…I could go on and on. My wife, too, is way smarter than I am. So I am totally surrounded and outgunned. It was not a stretch for me to develop two characters, Abby and Emily (not perfect, by any means) who are resourceful, strong-willed and who do their best to face the biggest of challenges with courage.


Was there a reason you choose the island you did to use for the setting of your book?                           
The plot plays out on a grand scale…after space germs decimate the adult population, Earth becomes a planet of children virtually overnight. One way to examine a sweeping catastrophe is to shrink the scale and make the story very personal. I thought an island off Maine, with a small winter population, offered an ideal setting. Later on, I was able to examine life on the mainland.

What gave you the idea to write this book? What was your inspiration?!
Two YA novels always stayed with me. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and Homecoming by Cynthia Voight. In each book the young main characters faced incredible odds and took dangerous journeys. In Night of the Purple Moon, I tried to increase the odds and raise the stakes. Rather than have one or both parents die, all parents die. Also, modern civilization depends on the collective efforts of specialists. If those specialists disappear, the infrastructure (running water, electricity, communications, food production) will cease to function. That is a gut-wrenching, perilous situation for young teens and children to find themselves in.

Did you base any of the characters personalities off of people you know/knew in your own life?
What usually happens is that I might start out plagiarizing a few character traits here and there from people I know, but as you start to understand your characters and you place them in difficult situations, pretty soon they take on lives of their own; they act on their own and you watch them as much as you direct them. At that point, they become unique individuals in almost every way.


How long did it take you to write this?
The story took many twists and turns and went from a novel to a screenplay and back, and while all that was going on I was very adept at finding other major distractions, such as writing half a mystery novel. All told, it took me one and half years to write Night of the Purple Moon.

Is this your first novel?
Officially it’s my third. Two other YA novels are sitting on my hard drive.


If no, what else have you written? If yes, have you written anything else non bookwise?
I’ve written quite a few magazine feature articles. I had one screenplay optioned, though the option has since expired. I have a few children’s picture books, unpublished. I used to work as a stringer for a daily newspaper, covering school committee meetings and the like. I’ve probably tried my hand at every type of writing except a stage play.

What are some of your favorite books to read?
When I am writing fiction, I tend to read non-fiction. I have been on a long stretch of reading mountain climbing books and sailing adventures.


What is your favorite genre?
I really love young adult. I think a good YA story should appeal to all ages. Some see the ages of the characters in Night of the Purple Moon (12/13) and think it’s a middle grade novel. I guess it is valid to say that it straddles the YA/MG line. But I never thought about a particular audience when I wrote the story. So far, 99 percent of the feedback has come from much older people. I know of only one 12-year who read an early draft. She said that she loved the book and cried “two-pounds of tears.” I think that she was the last person under 30 to read it.

Will there be a sequel to NOPM?
Yes.


(Bonus lame Barbra Walters question) If you were a tree. What kind of tree would you be? And why?
I debated oak vs willow for about two seconds and then came up with HICORY TREE. Hickory trees have been on my mind lately. My wife, who is a fifth grade science teacher, signed us up for a long-term environmental study where we plant three hickory trees in the yard and then report on their condition every five years. They came in the mail two weeks ago. They are the length of a chopstick and thin as twigs. She stuck them in the ground and surrounded each one with a little portable fence so I wouldn’t mow over them. Believe me, I am very careful around those hickory trees.
___________________________________________________

So now that you know a bit more about the author and the book. Head on over (here) and see if you can win a free copy!



Friday, May 18, 2012

Night of the Purple Moon - Give Away!!



Did someone say Giveaway!  Why yes, yes I did.
Last week I reviewed "Night of the Purple Moon" by Scott Cramer. You can read it (HERE)
Well, after that Scott has been gracious enough to offer 10 E-copies of his book. That's right 10 whole copies!!! to 10 lucky people! How awesome is that?! (very)
So Let's help yourself out by scoring some great reading material and let's help Scott out by making that material his awesome book. Which by the way made one of the top 100 lists on Amazon.

The only stipulation is that if you win one of these copies we ask that you read it (it's not a brick) and then pop on over to Amazon.com and write a quick review. It doesn't have to be much. "I loved it!" "It was okay." "eh" "I wish it was called rainbow moon because rainbows are pretty!" (okay, maybe not that)...but what ever you want to say. If you want to get this for you teen to read I'm sure getting a review from an actual young person would be appreciated as well.

And so to increase the chances that we all get a little somethin' somethin'. I'm going to make the entries kind of easy.

Here are the ways to get entries:


1. Follow Scott on twitter. @cramer_scott (then tell me)

2. Follow my blog (shameless promotion for me, I know) And post a comment telling me you did and how you like me, Um I mean, my blog.
(If you are already one of the original twelve followers then let me know too)

3.Share this post with a friend (facebook, twitter, email, how ever)...because sharing is caring....then tell me how much you cared.

And that's it! Just make sure you leave a separate comment for each entry.Otherwise if you put it all in one comment it will only be counted as one entry.....okay? Got it? Good.
I will leave this open for two weeks, so until Friday June 1st. If you see this on June 2nd...you're out of luck! Also there will be an interview with Scott posted sometime within those two weeks.
But back to the give away.......Now...Ready...Set... GO!

ENDED!!!!



Monday, May 7, 2012

Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer


Last week my sister and I were having one of our daily book conversations and she mentioned that she was sent a request to review a book. After reading a short synopsis she thought it might be a book that was more up my genre ally than hers...low and behold....It was!...well sort of. Let me show you what I mean.....


“Puberty was a ticking time bomb planted in each and every teen. The older you were the louder and faster it ticked...”

 A few months ago Abby moved with her Dad and younger brother and sister to a small fishing island off the coast of Maine. She was looking forward to the weekend when she would be able to see her Mom, following what was predicted to be the meteorological event of the century!
That night the the Earth would be making it's first pass through the tail of the Rudenko- Kasparov comet. It was expected to be a spectacular show, covering the entire atmosphere with harmless space dust and turn the moon a beautiful shade of purple. Unfortunately it did a lot more than that....
When she woke up the following morning Abby and her siblings discovered that not only was the space dust harmful but it had silently killed almost every single adult and older pubescent teenager on the planet. (seriously, all gone) 
Now, at the ripe old age of 13 she is one of the oldest children on the island it fell to her to try to keep not only herself and her siblings alive but the rest of the younger children on the island as well. That is at least until they could find a cure or they hit puberty and succumb to the space dust...which ever comes first.


My first opinion....
Stephen King's: The Stand meets William Golding's: Lord of the Flies.....with a twist.
As a mother of young children Mr. Cramer has managed to captured one of my greatest fears. That one day my children will wake up and find that my husband and I have died in our sleep. How will they survive?Who will take care of them? Not to mention when they were really little, how do they even get out of the house seeing as that they can't open the doors yet? These were questions that would keep me up at night.
And while the writing was excellent.... It flowed well and I understood everything without confusion or inconsistency. I must say as a mother, I really didn't like this story. It scared the crap out of me!

....which leads me to.......

My Second Opinion.....
Stephen King's: The Stand still meets William Golding's: Lord of the Flies.....but from a different perspective.......and still with a twist.

As I went through this book I realized that if I was going to finish it I had to try to hang up my “Mommy” cape but keep on my “Nerdy” boots and then mentally dig deep into my past before I had kids. Back to a time where I liked thrillers and watching movies with just this sort of thing....Hey, I like The Stand so why couldn't I like this? ( I never really liked Lord of the Flies, but then again, I doubt it was meant to be a “likeable” book. It was meant to teach you a lesson. Sort of like this one)..... And so looking at it from that perspective I found that as Sci-Fi Apocalyptic Underdog stories go.... It was pretty darn good! :D
After a while you almost tend to forget that the main characters were not adults but children and that makes the weight of their survival even more important. It shows the good and the bad in human nature. It showed how society has a choice even at a young age to either work together for the good of everyone or go savage and run rampant and just destroy until there is nothing left to save.
It also makes me realize that we need to be teaching our children how to be more self reliant. If it hadn't been for a few of the kids knowing basic survival skills and how to do real work they wouldn't have survived for long.
This story also reminded me about how we as a society need to value life. No matter how long or short it is. We need to tell those around us how much we love and care about them because for all you know they may not be there in the morning....now if you 'll excuse me, I'm going to go teach my 3 year old how to start a bond fire with some twigs and a tampon.

If you are interesting in reading this ebook you can find it at Amazon.com right HERE for $2.99 or if you are one of the elite and have a Prime account it's FREE.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Moving up in the blogesphere...

So I just reviewed a book on someone Elses blog!!! They specifically asked me and everything!!! (granted it is my sisters blog, but hey, that doesn't really matter. Right?) I feel important now. I'm going places! Movin' up in this wild and  crazy world! Getting my name out there!
WACH OUT WORLD!!!! I'M COMING FOR YOU!!!!

If you would like to read my review of "Bloodlines" by Richelle Mead and check out my sister's much more, put together blog, just clickity click right here. or here. or even here would work.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My recent Book Bender - Vampire Academy series.


It's been a while since my last post. My only excuse is that I've been kind of busy...there was spring break then a visit to my sister in Utah, breaking up with my best friend (one I mentioned in a previous post), my husband went way for a week on business so my sister actually came with her family up here for a while. The day she left I started reading.

I've heard of some people going on " drinking benders". Basically they take a week or weekend off and just drinking themselves into oblivion...well, I don't drink so instead I read myself into oblivion.
So in a matter of 8 -9 days I managed to get through the entire six book series of  "Vampire Academy" by Richelle Mead.  (And for you speedier readers out there who are all "well, that's not that fast." Remember I have 2 kids, a dog and a husband. Not to mention that even though they start out around 300 pages, by the end they are pushing 600 pages. So for me...that's pretty darn zippy! )

When I borrowed the first two books from the library, going on a bender was NOT my intention. I figured I'd read the first one and see if I had time for the second...well I decided to make time! Thankfully because the series ended in 2010 there wasn't a long wait to acquire the other books... obviously it sucked me in.
If you haven't heard of this series I'll give you a quick over view of the beginning...but before I do I need to give you a few definitions. (things that took me a while to grasp (let alone pronounce)  in the beginning.)

There might be a test later soo pay attention...


Dhampir (pronounced 'Damp-ear') - Half human half living vampire. Most train their entire lives to be  "Guardians" to the Moroi. Look like humans. Has the durability of humans but also have the higher senses of the Moroi (night vision, better hearing and sense of smell). Does not drink blood. The sun doesn't bother them at all.
Moroi (pronounce 'Moe Roy') - they are peaceful "living" vampires that are not immortal but do require small amounts of human blood to survive. (they eat other human food too). They can also stand limited amounts of sunlight. Have differing degrees of magic that controls at least one of the 5 elements, but they refuse to use it for defense. They rely on the Guardians to protect them. Can use compulsion but it's taboo.
Strigoi (prounced 'Stri goy') - The bad guys! Your stereo typical Vampire.Will burn in sunlight. They are immortal vampires that kill and drink only blood to survive. Most used to be Moroi who killed willingly thus causing them to change or were Dhampirs forced to change against their will. Either way they are evil from here on out and their favorite food group is the Moroi. They do not have magic anymore but are much stronger and faster than most Dhampirs or Moroi and they can use compulsion.


Ok so that's pretty much what you need to know....

    In the beginning we meet Rose Hathaway, a novice Dhampir who has trained her whole life in the hopes of being a guardian for her Moroi best friend Princess Lissa Dragomir. Starting after an accident that killed Lissa's entire family and almost killed Rose, the two have been psychically bonded. With out saying Rose is very protective of Lissa.  So two years ago when they perceived a threat to Lissa's life, they ran away from their home, a remote Moroi/Dhampir boarding academy in Montana.
    Living among humans and trying to  avoiding any Strigoi and especially any retrieval squads from the Academy. Things had been quiet for months until one night they were ambushed and dragged back home by the new addition to the Academy's guardians, Dimitri Belikov.(insert happy sigh)
    Now, forced to integrate back into school she must find a way to keep protecting Lissa (some times from herself) and catch up on her training if she has any hopes of passing the final tests at the end of the school year to become a true Guardian and protect her best friend. Unfortunately, due to her bad temper and previous record the only person willing to train her is Dimitri. (insert happy sigh) Who, while extremely good looking (of course), is seven years older and is not known for his social skills but has the reputation of being a "God" when it comes to his job.......and thus the forbidden romance and drama with the occasional fight scene ensues.

And.....scene!

While this series is all from Roses perspective, due to her one way bond with Lissa we get to see what Lissa is thinking and feeling even when they are not together (which can be good and bad at times) thus almost making it seem like two different stories.
And I've never really cared for the type of male lead who reminded me of Fabio with the long hair but I must say that if Dimitri were real......(insert happy sigh) Let's just say I won't be able to see a guy in a leather "duster" coat without wishing he really was real... I might have to put him on the shelf with Edward and Jace in my opinion....
The writing is easy to read but also a bit repetitive as the series goes on. Mostly though to accommodate those who have had to wait long periods of time between books and who may have forgotten some details. So I found myself skipping paragraphs here and there if I saw she was going into more back story that I already knew about.

As the books went on I also got the feeling she (the author) could have cut 100 pages if she didn't put quite sooo much detail and extra explanations . And despite me sometimes yelling at the book "I get it already!" it never really made anything drag. So no harm done.

Oh! Without giving anything too spoilery away I must mention that due to something very very bad happening in the third book the fourth book will require tissues...lots and lots of tissues. But like I said by that point you can't stop reading! And it all gets better...so as the British say Keep Calm and Carry On.


Needless to say, I reallllly enjoyed this series. I try to only obsess over one series at a time and I was hoping it would be something good but not get to invested in it...nope! It doesn't help that I discovered that there is a spin off series called "Bloodlines" following one of the minor characters ....It's on hold for me at the library right now!!!...and the second one in that series comes out in June!! Between that and the next Mortal Instruments book coming out in two weeks, I have a feeling my kids are going to have to learn how to use the microwave because.... "Mommy will be unavailable."

Books in the Vampire Academy Series....
-Vampire Academy
-Frostbite
-Shadow Kiss
-Blood Promise
-Spirit Bound
-Last Sacrifice

Monday, March 12, 2012

My cookie story and a recipe with Nutella...need I say more?

So today (Sunday) has been very emotional for me(in fact the whole week kinda sucked). And what is better to do when emotions are high than turn to a best friend. And since my best friend is my husband, he knew how miserable I was so he told me to go make some cookies while he folded the two weeks worth of laundry that 'somehow' got dumped out on my side of the bed this morning (by not me).
So I did....I entered my kitchen with the intention of looking up a guilt free but still yummy chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe and satisfying my unhealthy need to use food as a comfort object. My goal was to make something with my left over Almond and Coconut flour and try to keep it wheat and sugar free. (i.e. guiltish free)
I opened my (one) cookbook that contained recipes that fit into that criteria and couldn't quite find what I wanted so I looked on the internet...nothing really looked like what I wanted so in the spirit of "invention comes out of necessity" I decided that for the first time really I was going to EXPERIMENT! Almost every single (baking) recipe I"ve made has been inspired or tweaked from a recipe that has been proven worthy in someone else's kitchen. But tonight I believe I made up something of my own creation (if I haven't then I'm sorry to who ever really made it first)

But first let me tell you a short story I mentioned that I would in another post about my first solo cookie attempt....

When I was a freshman in college I decided that I was going to do something nice around Valentines day. I was going to try my hand at Domestic Engineering and make traditional Chocolate chip cookies and give them to people at school.
Some I just liked and other I really Like liked. (this was over 12 years ago so now I just like everyone instead of Like like them) So, using the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag I proceeded to make the dough and cook most of them to a nice golden brown. Out of the whole batch of maybe 5 dozen I really only felt that only one or two dozen were worthy to distribute because they were nice and round and (in my opinion) perfectly browned. They were not chewy but I thought they looked great!! So I packaged them up in baggies and took them to school. (the rest of the rejects I left with a note that my (psycho)  roommates could eat at their own risk)
It was one of those days that I had a lot of time in between classes so I just sat in the hallway and waited to see people I knew. The first guy friend I saw I flagged down and gave him a bag. He took a cookie out and looked at it and said kind of disgusted "Um, it's Burnt!" I was taken aback..."No it's not!" and he was all "Yes it is." And proceed to tell me that it was burnt because it was hard. (or something like that, I was still reeling from the embarrassment and insult) Then he showed me a bag of Hershey kisses some 'other' girl gave him and how nice that was..bla bla bla!
Anyway, I didn't give anymore out to my friends. But it was that "experience" that motivated me years later to learn how to bake and make things look good and taste even better for someone who actually Like liked me!
This could have all been for You my friend!

As a side note: I went home that evening to find that the rejects, while not perfectly round or brown were soft and chewy and very very yummy.


Anyway, this is what I (believe) came up with tonight

Chocolate Chocolate chip Nutella cookies

1 cup Chocolate whey protein powder (I used MRM dutch chocolate)
1/2 cup Almond flour
1/2 Coconut flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt

1 stick of butter
1/4 cup *Maltitol Sugar (I use "Steels" that I ordered online)
1/4 cup  Maltitol Brown Sugar (Steels)
1/3 cup Nutella
2 eggs
1 Egg white (optional)

1/2 bag chocolate chips (Not optional!!!)
Pecans wouldn't be a bad thing (optional)
Or maybe even Marshmallows?

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
In a separate bowl mix your dry ingredients
Then in a larger or stand mixer bowl mix up you wet ingredients.
Then combine add the wet to the dry. At first it looks like there may not be enough liquid but it all soaks in eventually.
After it starts to come together then add the chocolate chips.
Using a small cookie scoop plop them down on your cookie sheet and then you can use your (clean) fingers to flatten them to about 1/4 inch. (the dough didn't stick to my fingers at all so no need to grease them)
Bake for 8 minutes.
yields about 4 dozen 2 inch cookies (It made about 40 whole cookies but I also ate a good deal of the batter throughout the whole process so I'm saying 4 dozen)


*If you don't have Maltitol you could probably sub with Truvia or xylitol  OR if you don't care about it being sugar free I'm sure you could used regular sugar... it might even give it a better texture.


*Now because these cookies are not made with your typical cookie ingredients and have a lot of egg (hence why the extra egg white is optional), the texture isn't as dense. They more resemble a meringue cookie,(a little bit spongy) so if you feel so inclined feel free to use them as a "sandwich cookie" I found they make wonderful bookends to a dollop of Nutella or maybe your favorite frosting. And as with most things glutenish free, they are a bit better the next day...not so dry.

Either way, they won over my son and that is not easily done!



Oh and because it is that time of years....


I know the feeling little girl.....
                     

Thursday, March 1, 2012

French bread....and LIARS!!!


So, I love to make bread. Almost any type of bread really...I like quick breads (muffins) and as I call them "slow breads" (sour dough) and all in between. If it has flour, chances are I've thought about trying to master it. But for years there is one thing that has alluded me....french bread that looks and tastes like the store bought baguettes (yeah, after 6 years of French lessons I still had to spell check that word)
Speaking of my years of French language education, when I was in college my French teacher gave me a recipe to make for a class party. It really was my first ever attempt at a yeast bread that I can remember. And I followed the instructions to the T. I added the yeast to the water, let it sit. Then the salt and the flour. I kneaded the best I could, let it rise and then punched it down and formed it into free standing "loaves". Let it rise again and then baked it......what came out could have been used as a prop on one of the planets on the original Star Trek....it's looked "Ok" for my first attempt . Not professional, but not tooo bad (everyone told me so...the LIARS!) .... I also took comfort in the fact that it was going to be cut up into chunks for dipping. As the day went on, I was actually feeling pretty cool about how I "made" my own french bread....Until.....

She (My French teacher) brought them to class still warm from the oven....fresh and golden brown. Two beautiful, crunchy crusted, spongy centered thin baguettes....My spirits were dashed! My accomplishment made to look like someone named Brunhilda next to Bell from Beauty and the Beast. (In fact, it reminded me of the "cookie" incident from a year earlier. But that's another post)  Oh, she was very humble about it. I asked her what she did differently and the only thing she could tell me was that I needed baguette pans and it would be just like hers the next time...oh look another Liar!

Fast forward a few years...I now had a professional baguette pan...Industrial really (thank you Ebay). It was so professional that my Dad had to cut the one end off so it would fit in my standard oven. (thank you Daddy!:D) Anyway, I was ready to try again! I combined all the ingredients and went through the whole process, knead, rise, etc. And then I got to the hard part....the shaping.


Side story: I can't roll out things very well. I will never be able to fulfill my dream of working for Auntie Anne's Pretzels because even though I have great customer service skills,and can pull off a hair net, I can't roll an even straight line....it's always been like this, ever since I was little I couldn't even make "logs" from play dough. Oh sure, every once in a while the stars would a line and things turned out even, but most times than not, I usually just end up with what looks like an uneven broken turd. Those who have seen this in person try to give me the same advice. "You just need to press down with the same amount of pressure and keep your hands moving as you move it out/along." 
(once again) LIARS! Maybe my left hand is heavier than my right? I don't know. Either way, it just wasn't in my bag of skills I was born with...now, back to the bread.


So I "log rolled" it out and even though it looked uneven and lumpy I placed it on my new pan and waited for it to do its magic.....hhmmm, I think my dad cut off the magic portion of the pan...
Because while it came out in a more baguette shape it still was not very nice to look at and tasted very very bland. So I decided to scrap the whole endeavor.  There were plenty of other breads to make that had cinnamon and berries and stuff that were much more compliant...I don't need the stupid yummy French bread! I can always just buy one at the store.....stupid baguette! :( I DON'T NEED YOU!!

Fast forward even more years to yesterday....We had spagetti and meatballs planned and I wanted to make some yummy bread to go with it. Not really remember my last attempts and armed with the past few years of experience I thought this would be easy peasy....nope.
It pretty much turned out like the last tragedy. Long, lumpy, tasteless and hard as a rock. Even my husband, who will eat almost anything (bless his heart) took a bite and  said "eh, it's not too bad." Then made a bit of a face. I told him he didn't have to eat it. For which he looked quite relieved...in the end even my carb loving dog wouldn't touch it. Hopefully the birds aren't so picky.....
"Spock! I've never seen a barren planet that shape before! Mr. Sulu, what do you think?" "Oh my!"

Needless to say I was put out. After all these years of making great bread and thinking I knew my stuff I still couldn't get it! So I woke up this morning with a goal...I was going to try it again with a different recipe! (cue "Eye of the Tiger.") So I turned to trusty Google and looked up recipes...Ugh! They were pretty much alll the same. Water, yeast, flour and salt. And all pretty much in the same proportions...so how could I be messing this up?! It was then that I read the instructions from one of the recipes...in relation on how to shape the loaf. (add Fireworks to "Eye of the Tiger")

So now, without further ado! After a really long story! I bring to you my French bread recipe...

1 cup warm water
1 TBS instant Yeast
1 1/2 tsp. Sugar (optional, it helps the yeast grow)
3 cups Bread Flour
1 tsp Salt

1 Egg beaten or Egg White (for Egg wash, optional)

(This recipe will make 1 baguette. The original recipe was doubled so the flour was 6-7 cups just FYI. And if you are going to double it, chances are it won't fit in you bread maker)

- In your bread maker or in a large mixing bowl.Add the yeast to the water and let it start to get frothy. You can also add the Sugar at this time if you want it.

- Add 1 cup of the flour and swirl it around a bit just to incorporate it.

- Add the rest of the flour

-Add the Salt Last! Salt, while important in bread, it actually hiders yeast growth if it's added before the flour. ( I think it's funny how in most recipes they add the salt before the flour. Maybe they just don't want you to succeed as much..just a thought)

- Either put in your bread maker on the "Dough" setting and then walk away  OR you can use a mixer with a Dough Hook OR you can get your exercise and mix it by hand i.e. Knead for about 10 minutes until it's smooth or your arms fall off which ever happens first.

- If not using a bread maker. Place in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap that's been sprayed with cooking spray and then put a kitchen towel over the whole thing.

-Wait about an hour or until it's doubled

-Punch it down, let it rest another 5 minutes or so and start the shaping (my nemesis)
You can shape it any way you really want to. It's your dough. But there are traditionally a few ways to do it. Free standing or using a Baguette pan.

Free standing you just knead it a little bit and then shape it into an oval, tucking up and under. Put some corn meal down on a cookie sheet and then put it on ,ugly seem side down.

Baguette pan shape. (Here comes the "oh DUH!" moment I learned today) What you need to do is take your ball of dough and using a rolling pin Roll it out into a long rectangle shape and then roll it up Hot dog style and then tuck the ends in a bit...Viola! An actual baguette shape!!! Then you just spray you pan with cooking spray and place your lovily seems side down.

From here you just put the plastic wrap back over it along with the towel and let it rise again for about an hour.

Once it's risen take a sharp knife very carefully and make a few slashes about 1/4- 1/2 deep on top to let the steam out. (On my previous attempts I had so many holes in the dough, I didn't need to this. It would just escape through one of the craters )

You can brush it with an egg wash (beaten egg) but only if you want to. It gives it a shine and a chewy texture on top. Brush it on just before it goes in and at about 10 minutes before it's done.

Bake it at 375 degrees for about 24 minutes.

Now, if all goes well. Yours should look something akin to THIS!


this one is missing the end piece...resistance was futile!

Oh? You want to see the difference again? Well, alright.

 And this is how you know that it is good
You can see the remnants of crust behind her..she saves them for me.

And here are some suggested condiments to enhance the flavor even more....

All in all, I can't tell you why it tastes better once it was shaped better (maybe it had self esteem issues) but I can tell you that it worked! mmmmmm mmmmm mmmm.